The New England Patriots' preparation for the 2020 NFL Draft is well underway.
Multiple members of the Patriots were in Alabama this week for the Senior Bowl, including head coach Bill Belichick. Patriots scouts reportedly were "gushing" over SMU wide receiver Jordan Proche, who plays at a position New England would be wise to upgrade through the draft.
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The Patriots have plenty of defensive needs as well, and ESPN's Mel Kiper has the AFC East champs bolstering their secondary in his first 2020 NFL mock draft of the season.
Here's part of Kiper's rationale for slotting Alabama safety Xavier McKinney to the Patriots with the 23rd pick in the first round.
...They have a few other important free agents, though, including safety Devin McCourty and linebacker Jamie Collins, who had a resurgent season. That's why I like the fit of McKinney, my top-ranked safety after I took a closer look at his 2019 tape. He's a complete player and is versatile, which is a trait Bill Belichick values. McKinney also has another thing Belichick likes: He played for Belichick's buddy Nick Saban.
NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Phil Perry also had McKinney going to the Patriots in his first 2020 NFL mock draft.
McKinney played three seasons with the Crimson Tide and set career highs in 2019 with 95 total tackles, four forced fumbles and three interceptions. He also tallied five passes defensed and three sacks. One of McKinney's best games of the season came against No. 1 ranked and eventual national champions LSU, where he tallied 13 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in Alabama's 46-41 loss.
The Patriots have one of the league's most talented secondaries, but it's not a young group. Devin McCourty is an unrestricted free agent at 32 years old. His brother, Jason, also is 32 and has one more year left on his contract. Veteran safeties Duron Harmon (29 years old) and Patrick Chung (32 years old) are at the end of their primes. The NFL is a passing league, so it would behoove the Patriots to add some new blood to their defensive backfield.
McKinney is one of the top defensive backs in the 2020 draft class, and he obviously was well coached by Nick Saban and played in many big games as an Alabama starter.